New: Berkeley study on how stress changes the brain…

The following new study from Berkeley is really interesting:

Title: How chronic stress predisposes brain to mental disorders
URL: ScienceDaily

Summary: Biologists have shown in rats that chronic stress makes stem cells in the brain produce more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons, possibly affecting the speed of connections between cells as well as memory and learning. This could explain why stress leads to mental illness, such as PTSD, anxiety and mood disorders, later in life. (Source: University of California – Berkeley)


This kind of research continues the unraveling of the mystery of how stress creates changes in brain structure. My interest in the study is that it confirms further that for many of us, ‘anxiety’, and our automatic ‘over response’ to situations and events, can be down to miscommunications in the brain which inappropriately trigger fight or flight hormones – and any effective treatment or therapy for anxiety or depression must include the client understanding fully the physiology of stress and the sequence that leads to emotional reasoning, and how to manage it.

Summary: The study looks at stress causing an excess of myelin, which ‘disrupts the delicate balance and timing of communication within the brain.’ And it focuses on the hippocampus…. which regulates memory and emotions, and plays a key role in mental health. The following quote from the study explains the consequences of the miscommunications:

Kaufer’s findings suggest a mechanism that may explain some changes in brain connectivity in people with PTSD for example. One can imagine, she said, that PTSD patients could develop a stronger connectivity between the hippocampus and the amygdala – the seat of the brain’s fight or flight response – and lower than normal connectivity between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which moderates our responses.

You can imagine that if your amygdala and hippocampus are better connected, that could mean that your fear responses are much quicker, which is something you see in stress survivors,” she said. “On the other hand, if your connections are not so good to the prefrontal cortex, your ability to shut down responses is impaired. So, when you are in a stressful situation, the inhibitory pathways from the prefrontal cortex telling you not to get stressed don’t work as well as the amygdala shouting to the hippocampus, ‘This is terrible!’ You have a much bigger response than you should.”

So… change your brain with ‘learning and doing’ – recommended related posts:

– My Fight or Flight post

– My Brain Plasticity post

– My downloads worksheets page

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